Listeriosis (Listeria monocytogenes Infection)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Quick GuideBacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments

Bacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments

What are the risk factors for listeriosis?

The major risk factor for getting listeriosis is eating or drinking foods and liquids contaminated with Listeria bacteria. Foods and liquids that have been contaminated with animal feces or soil are the most frequently identified sources for these organisms. Drinking inadequately treated or unpasteurized liquids is another source of infection.

Some individuals have an increased risk for getting listeriosis. In general, people with an altered or damaged immune system have a higher risk of getting listeriosis and its more severe complications. Specifically, people at much higher risk include pregnant females, newborns, the elderly, diabetics, cancer patients, AIDS patients, patients with kidney diseases, alcoholics, and those patients undergoing any immune-suppression therapy. Most individuals who get severe infections and/or die from listeriosis have one or more of the medical problems listed above.

How is listeriosis spread?

Listeriosis is mainly a food-borne disease; except in the situation in which a pregnant woman can transfer the bacteria to the fetus or newborn, the disease is not contagious from person to person.

Foods that have been associated with Listeria outbreaks are many (for example, soft cheeses, yogurt, apples, smoked seafood, deli meats, hot dogs, fruits, and vegetables). There have been many outbreaks of the disease over the world; an event occurred in Texas in October 2010, tentatively related to locally processed celery; 10 people were diagnosed with listeriosis and five died. Most people infected had underlying medical problems or conditions. In 2011, approximately 146 people got infected from Listeria-contaminated cantaloupes and about 32 people died. In February 2012, over 1 million eggs were recalled after several processed in a processing plant were found to be contaminated with Listeria. The eggs were sold under the brand names of Columbia Valley Farms, GFS, Glenview Farms, Papetti's, Silverbrook, and Wholesome Farms. The egg brands were sold in 34 states. The year 2015 had at least three outbreaks of listeriosis. Bidart Brothers of Bakersfield, Calif., produced apples that eventually were determined to be contaminated with the bacteria. The organisms were first noticed in apples that were caramel coated. Hummus produced by the Sabra Dipping Company was recalled (30,000 cases of hummus) because the food was found to be contaminated with Listeria. Also in 2015, the very popular brand of ice cream, Blue Bell, caused a serious outbreak of listeriosis. The company shut down its facilities in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas to rid them of Listeria. During the outbreak, 10 individuals were hospitalized and three died. In 2016, CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington, recalled 11 frozen vegetable products because of Listeria contamination. Nine people were hospitalized and three died during this outbreak to date. Unfortunately, this outbreak is complicated by the fact that some of the vegetable products in the recall date back as far as 2014. Individuals who have stored frozen CRF products that date back as far as 2014 need to get rid of the potentially contaminated frozen products, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/2/2016

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